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When I was a tyke, Papaw used to take me to a local watering hole called “Mamma B’s." Mamma B was a, shall I say, well-upholstered black woman who could cook anything. She had secret knowledge about simmering things in gravy that would even make a tire iron tender.
I always got two fried chicken legs, one for each hand. We didn’t have “chicken tenders” back then. I’ve eaten gizzards, livers, breasts, thighs, and even feet. But I have no idea where to find a "tender" on a yard bird. They’re as elusive as rooster teeth. But I digress.
With my drumsticks came a mountain of mashed potatoes with a thick pat of melting butter on top. It ran down like the oil on Aaron’s beard, yea even to the hem of his garments. Behold, how good and pleasant. Along with a plate of buttermilk biscuits and a bowl of brown gravy through which I drug the chicken legs, the biscuits, my shirtsleeves, and half the tablecloth.
Papaw usually made do with a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie. I think he just liked to watch me eat and smear groceries from Dan to Beersheba. But I remember on one occasion he decided to have a little bit of fun with Mamma B.
“Mr. Clark,” she said, pronouncing his name like Papaw hung on the wall and kept up with the time of day, “Watchu want today? Yo reguluh cup of coffee and slice of pie?”
“B, I have a hankering for something, but I ain’t sure you know how to cook it,” he said, smiling.
Mamma B put her hands on her prodigious hips, “Oh is that right,” she said. “Try me.”
“I want a fried elephant ear sandwich, hold the pickles,” Papaw said.
She never batted an eye. “You want that with coffee or tea,” she said, and turned toward the kitchen.
A few minutes later, Mamma B returned to our table with a glass of sweet tea. “Mr. Clark,” she said, apologetically, I’m afraid we’s outta them big buns. We gone hafta just lay em over some rice.”
“That’s ok B,” he said. “Just bring me a piece of that apple pie. I think my eyes were bigger than my stomach anyway.” And Mamma B chuckled her big self all way back to the kitchen.
When Papaw died a year or two later, Mamma B came to the funeral. After the burial service was over, she left a large pot of elephant ears beside his grave. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who ever really knew why